“Your borough needs you!” That’s the message from organisers of a new Doncaster-based project aiming to document the impact of the First World War on local people before memories are lost forever. From next week, everyone is invited to get involved in the action, as the four year “Doncaster 1914-18” project begins to uncover the past that shaped our future, with family events, touring displays, new exhibitions, education initiatives, a new interactive website, and even an archaeological dig.
“The First World War fundamentally changed lives and places, and the impact on the Doncaster borough is still clear today, with industry changing to support the war effort, family roles turned upside down as men and boys enlisted, and even landmarks changed,” explains Jude Holland, the Doncaster 1914-18 Project Manager. “Sadly, because it happened outside of our ‘living history’ we are slowly losing our connection to the people and places of our past, and forgetting that its legacy is still shaping our lives today. This is where we need help from people to re-build a picture of life across the borough during 1914-18. The First World War was a time when Doncaster’s people made a real difference, and so we need to find out about real people, who lived and worked on our streets, or fought far away from home.”
From Friday 22 May, next week’s half-term holiday events will put the spotlight on family life, with a chance to try out crafts, costumes and a range of hands-on activities, and will take place at venues including the Doncaster Dome, and Mexborough library. From then on – alongside a packed year-round programme of events and exhibitions that reveals many remarkable stories – people across Doncaster or anyone with a local connection are being encouraged to investigate and share family stories or memorabilia, or to volunteer in a range of exciting projects. A new interactive Doncaster 1914-18 website will also use innovative technology to reveal Doncaster’s wartime story, and allow people to share and research their own family stories, creating a new digital archive for future generations, and preserving this important part of our community.
Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, said: “The Doncaster 1914-18 project is a valuable reminder of what our ancestors went through during the First World War, and the incredible sacrifices that are still being made today. It is vital that we remember those brave men and women who served their country so proudly, as we continue to support the Doncaster’s modern Armed Forces Community in the future”.
“Whether young or old, whatever your background or nationality – everyone in the Doncaster area will have a connection to the First World War,” adds Carolyn Dalton, Heritage Services Manager. “It was a time of tragedy and tension, with many sad stories – after all, 1000 Doncaster men lost their lives in the war. But it was also a time of industry and innovation, a testament to the power of the human spirit that provides inspiration and hope even today.” As a garrison town and industrial centre, Doncaster Borough played a significant role in World War One, and Doncaster 1914-18 will be exploring the frontline experiences of its soldiers – and especially the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; but also the home front through the lives of those left behind, making their own sacrifices and contributions to the war effort.
Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Spanning the same duration of the conflict and beyond Doncaster 1914-18 will provide an insight into subjects ranging from rationing and zeppelin raids to family memories and life in a battalion. “Doncastrians are at the heart of every step of this project – from unearthing memories at Scarborough Barracks to personally adding to the interactive digital legacy which will connect the community to their past.”
This year’s programme of events and exhibitions look back 100 years to 1915 and include:
· The ‘Great War on Tour’ roadshow will be travelling to a range of locations and events across the Doncaster area, including libraries, village halls, sports venues, fairs and carnivals. Those visiting the roadshow, can meet the 1914-18 Project team to share their own stories, bring along First World War photographs and memorabilia to be added to a new online archive, or try wartime costumes, crafts and other hands-on family activities. During half-term the Great War on Tour will be at Mexborough Library on 26 May, Doncaster Dome on 27 May and the Cantley Park Carnival on Saturday 30 May.
· ‘Doncaster at War’ a travelling exhibition, which will be updated annually with stories of the contribution Doncaster people played in the war, will visit libraries and community venues across the borough, including Mexborough Library until 28 May.
· Opportunities to investigate the astonishing achievement of local volunteer, Wyn Bulmer, who has painstakingly collected reports of all servicemen in the local newspapers during the First World War, and created an index for local people to use in carrying out their own research. The index records those killed, missing, wounded, taken prisoner of war and awarded medals for bravery.
· A new exhibition, ‘A Call to Arms!: The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at War 1914-15’ at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery uses personal testimonies and original objects to chart the life of Doncaster men, and those from the West Riding of Yorkshire, in the army, from outbreak to stalemate in the trenches.
· Doncaster 1914-18 website, a digital resource which features a full programme of events for everyone to join in, including Homefront family activities, to a summer live archaeology dig! It will also use cutting-edge technology, to become an interactive archive where Doncaster’s people can share their stories but also investigate their own history. The website will launch in September 2015. Local residents can also share stories, images or ideas via Twitter or Facebook.
Generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund during the four-year project with a grant of £926,700, Doncaster 1914-18 will feature an ever-changing programme of events and exhibitions, with future years uncovering the diverse experiences of Doncaster people on the Home Front, including women’s experiences of war, Doncaster’s role in the Battle of the Somme, Doncaster’s Royal Flying Corps and Airfield, the role of the local countryside and country houses, and Armistice.
To find out more about getting involved in Doncaster 1914-18, including events and exhibitions, visit http://www.doncaster1914-18.com.